These are the movies and TV shows I’m looking forward to in the new year:
When we say “the new Paul Feig movie,” something like “A Simple Favor,” now on home video, is not what we’d expect from the co-creator of “Freaks and Geeks” and the director of many subsequent comedies with heart. But, you know, it’s pretty cool that someone can have enough success to break out of the category we’ve put him in – even if we like his work in that category.
It has become comfortingly familiar at this point: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child take us – via their adventurous leads – to some corner of the Earth that still holds mysteries in the 21st century. Or that we can imagine still holds mysteries, if our knowledge of the place is sketchy enough that we can fool ourselves. The latest locale is southeastern Egypt in “The Pharaoh Key” (June 2018, hardcover), a novel that does its part to get the correct spelling of “pharaoh” back in the lexicon after the success of that darn horse.
A lot of movies could benefit from a viewer going in with no knowledge of what they’re about to see, but in the age of previews giving away everything, it’s hard to find an experience like that. Streaming services might be bringing it back though: A synopsis and a still image look intriguing, the service recommends it to you based on your viewing habits, it gets good ratings from others … so maybe you’ll give it a shot. Netflix’s “Cam” benefits from the Mystery Mine Ride approach.
I went into “Homecoming” (Amazon Prime) pretty blind. I had seen a few quick ads for the show but had no idea what it was about, or who was involved in the making of it. I will avoid talking about the plot at all here, so you can do the same.
“A Million Little Things” (10 p.m. Eastern Wednesdays on ABC) is the least bad network newcomer I’ve reviewed so far. If the search for answers to why a guy (Ron Livingston’s real-estate mogul Jon) jumped off a high balcony to his death grabs you – hey, this premise made “13 Reasons Why” a hit – then it might be worth pursuing. This show handles suicide and depression with a defter touch than you might fear, but also focuses on a narrow swath of the population: well-off folks in Boston.
CBS adds to its stable of modernized nostalgia-driven shows (see also “Hawaii Five-0” and “MacGyver”) with “Magnum P.I.” (9 p.m. Eastern Mondays), which drops the comma and trades Tom Selleck’s ‘stache for Jay Hernandez’s goatee, but retains most other elements of the 1980s action/detective classic. I’m guessing old-school fans aren’t as enthusiastic about the update as Magnum is about crashing Porsches in pursuit of bad guys, because it rates a mere 4.6 on IMDB.
“Manifest” (10 p.m. Eastern Mondays on NBC) isn’t quite the “What does it all mean?” “Lost”-style mystery I thought it would be. Then again, it’s not exactly original, either. It’s just that the TV shows it reminds me of are different ones than I had assumed.
“American Vandal” proves it’s not a one-case wonder with the excellent Season 2 (Netflix), which again blends juvenile humor on the surface with a deeper layer of observations about human behavior. Whereas Season 1 explored who spray-painted penises on teachers’ cars at a California high school, Season 2 (again eight episodes, although it strikes me as brisker and more tightly crafted) finds teen investigative documentarians Peter (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam (Griffin Gluck) – plus a “Netflix” cameraman — traveling to Oregon to uncover the identity of the Turd Burglar.
The fall movie season arguably looks better than the summer season this year, with a nice mix of traditional fall films and a few scattered blockbusters – although a look at each film’s pedigree reveals this to still be the season of the auteur. Here are my picks for the top 10 movies to see: